Some people protest war. Others protest hunger and suffering. Less discussed, but no less common, is a special class of protest reserved for parents: conscientious objection to their children’s troublesome friends. When parents look out into the world, they see peers whose values and attitudes are contagious. And they are notorious for circling the wagons to keep out unwanted intruders.Which brings us back to the question of whether the school your kid attends matters as much as you think it does. On Monday and Tuesday, I pointed out that the differences between schools in improving test scores are ...

Madame Secretary's rolling up at the National Press Club for lunch today, vowing to take matters into her own hands on NCLB (USA Today article here). She's expected to chat about expanding growth models, differentiating sanctions, and requiring states to adopt a uniform definition of high school graduation. More details here. I'm all for growth models. But growth models that don't ditch the 100% proficiency fantasy are not much of an improvement. Stay tuned for the GWG's talk....

Cool people you should know #14! Russ Rumberger teaches at the University of California - Santa Barbara's School of Education. Not only does he have the most zany academic website I've ever visited (animation + music), he's done a lot of NCLB-relevant work on dropouts, English language learners, and student mobility. Check out his recent study on a critical question - how does the high school a student attends affect her test scores and likelihood of dropping out or transferring? Despite the recent media frenzy about "dropout factories," Rumberger determined that after you control for student background characteristics, schools don't vary ...

We've now entered a P.F. (Post Freakonomics) age, and talk of incentives is everywhere. Education is no exception - there's rising interest in the idea of paying kids for upping their scores (more on this idea here). See the New Yorker's pithy take on incentives and the afterlife here: Eternity lasts a very long time. Our resources, though “infinite,” are not unlimited....Focus groups have suggested that offering a mere year or two of heavenly bliss, coupled with the threat of a single hour spent bathing in hot pitch and being harassed by demons, would generate ninety-seven per cent ...

We've all played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The idea that we are all more connected than we think took off after psychologist Stanley Milgram's small world experiment. In the late 1960s, Milgram sent a chain letter to residents in Omaha and Wichita. The challenge for participants was to return the letter to a designated person in Boston by handing it off to the fewest people possible. Channeling Disney, Milgram found that it's a small world after all. It turns out that it took an average of six exchanges to get the letters back to Boston. What does this have ...

Today is NCLB’s 6th birthday. NCLB is, at its core, a policy predicated on the idea that schools vary widely in their ability to improve students’ test scores. By holding schools accountable, the hope is that “bad” schools will become more like “good” ones. (Note - this is a post about NCLB on NCLB's terms, so I'm going to focus on test scores. For more posts on NCLB, take a look here. However, as I wrote yesterday, once we take into account students’ background characteristics, school effects on standardized test scores are pretty small. The good news is that ...

On NCLB's birthday, Diane Ravitch suggests that we're prancing around in our birthday suits (Grading Schools): I find myself (once again) in the uncomfortable position of seeing ideas that I have supported as part of a broader set of reforms turn into unhealthy obsessions. I feel like someone who said that people should wear hats and then turned around to discover that people were talking about nothing else but their hats and walking around naked. Deb, I think that one of the things that has occasionally drawn us together is that we both have a vision about education, what it ...

I can't offer all you can eat shrimp or bottomless margaritas, but Ed Week has installed two handy new functions that you should check out. On the right hand bar, you'll find an RSS feed, as well as a gadget that delivers posts to your email. Enjoy. P.S. - I am the last living person without an RSS reader (or, OMG - a Facebook page), so I am directing you to do things I don't totally understand. What I forgot to say: if you subscribed to the RSS feed before, can you *resubscribe*? Many thanks....

In October, I awarded the first "Gold Star Book Award" to Mitchell Stevens' Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites. (You can read more about the book here.) In this week's Chronicle of Higher Education, Stevens turns in an incisive op-ed that serves as a powerful rejoinder to the absurdity bug that bit the Wall Street Journal last week: By the time upper-middle-class 17-year-olds sit down to write their applications, most of the race to top institutions has already been run, and they already enjoy comfortable leads....For those kids, the big question is not whether they ...

It's no "Juno," but this video of a Caroline Hoxby talk on charter schools in NYC is well worth watching. Hoxby discusses her evaluation of NYC charter schools, which compares students who win charter lotteries with those enter but don't win. The charter effect on math scores is .09 standard deviations, while the effect on reading scores is .04 standard deviations (for a year spent in a charter school). Of particular interest in her description of the programmatic differences between these schools, the most central of which is a longer school day and school year. More on this study coming ...


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